The 2010 Edition of the Atlanta Thrashers is younger, grittier and certainly surprising early this season. Last night Anthony Stewart had a hat trick to power the Thrashers rally win in the shoot-out against the flailing Anaheim Ducks.
In case you missed, this the Anthony Stewart who was picked late in the 1st round by then-Floriday Panthers GM Rick Dudley. Stewart battled injuries, ineffectiveness and perhaps unrealistic expectations in Florida and in 2008-09 he was getting just 4th line ice time. But Dudley certainly has faith in 'his guys' and Stewart was signed by Atlanta last year, but didn't make the team out of camp and spend the entire season in the AHL where he had 31 points in 77 games with the Chicago Wolves.
After four games (and three goals) Stewart is part of a four way tie for Thrashers scoring leader. The other members of that tie are Andrew Ladd, Chris Thorburn and Tobias Enstrom! We knew that the 2010-11 Thrashers would have scoring by committee, but I don't think anyone would have picked three of those guys to be the early team leader.
The good news is that the team is getting goal scoring from unexpected places. Chris Thorburn had another goal last night and Nigel Dawes made his first big offensive contribution by scoring in the shoot-out to lock up the second standings point after the over time ended with the two teams lied up at 4-4.
The other good news is that they are earning 'garbage' goals around the net by screening the opposition goalies and being handy to pot rebounds into the net. Just look at last night highlight reel and you can see the Thrashers collecting some dirty goals.
Tonight Atlanta takes on the Sharks a franchise that typically dominates the Thrashers. The Sharks are big and quick and in the past Atlanta has matched up very poorly against those sorts of teams. The new look Thrashers have more size and quickness so this might an early season measuring stick game--is this version better suited to battle a team like the Sharks?